It’s that time of year-cold and flu season! My office is overbooked these days with children of all ages complaining of runny noses, coughs, fevers, and feeling lousy. What’s a parent to do?

First I would like to focus on prevention. As a pediatrician, I would much rather prevent illness than have to treat it. Here are a few of my suggestions:
  1. Teach your school-aged children how to wash their hands properly. This means 20 seconds with warm soapy water-20 seconds is a long time! It may help to time how long it takes to sing a favorite song or see how many verses take 20 seconds to give your child a guideline. And when water isn’t nearby, then use a hand sanitizer but make sure you teach your children to get into all of the crevices!
  2. Make sure your children cover their coughs and sneezes with the inner side of their elbows. It keeps the germs off of their hands which touch common surfaces.
  3. Keep you kids home when they are sick to avoid spreading germs to friends and classmates.
  4. Get flu vaccines as early as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends the flu vaccine for all children over 6 months. Children under 9 years old, will need two flu vaccines 4 weeks apart the first year they get it, so plan early. And, December is not too late to get vaccinated. The flu doesn’t peak until around February. If you have a newborn in the house too young to get the flu vaccine (<6 months), be sure that all caregivers and siblings get vaccinated to protect that new baby.
  5. Boost your child’s immune system by making sure she gets enough sleep, a well balanced diet, and exercise.
If, despite all of your best efforts, you child still comes down with the flu or a cold, here are a few things you can do to ease the symptoms:
  1. Put a humidifier in the bedroom-it helps moisten the air and makes it easier to breath.
  2. Use a fever reducer like acetaminophen or ibuprofen if the temperature is over 100.4 F. Follow the dosing instructions carefully. Use the dosing cup or syringe that came with the bottle.
  3. Cough and cold medicines have not been shown to be effective in children so I don’t recommend them at all for children under age 6. For kids over 6, parents can try them but I find that often they don't work.
  4. Honey is a great cough suppressant for children over age 1 year. My kids always ask for honey at the first sign of a cough!
  5. If you child doesn’t look right to you, or the fever is lasting more than a few days, don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician.

The information provided on this web site is only for informational purposes and is not intended to provide specific medical advice, or substitute for medical advice from a physician or other qualified medical professional.